I woke up early this morning to the sound of a train passing through the valley. The roar of the engines and the whistle as it passed through Charlemont sounded as if it was right in the center of town. It’s a common phenomenon – when the wind is just right it sounds as if you could walk to the tracks.
It made me think of a time in Rowe’s history when people were almost completely dependent on the railroad for travel or commerce. Summer visitors would board the train in Chicago or Boston to come to Rowe to take in the fresh air. The visits were long and quite relaxing I’m sure. Many households took in boarders, some enterprising individuals build cabins or camps to accommodate vacationers. Other families built or bought homes that were only used in the summer months.
There were people in town with a good horse and buggy that would drive to Zoar to pick visitors up for their stay or residents coming back from bringing butter to North Adams to sell. Arrangements were made and the train was on schedule. It was a slow motion Uber if you will.
Summer is the most glorious of times on Fort Pelham Farm. It’s lush and green. The gardens are in full bloom and the birds sing you awake in the morning. You can take a little walk and see all sorts of wild animals – some visit that aren’t always as welcome (bears) but are still a thrill to see. It’s not just Fort Pelham Farm though, a drive about town gives a sense of why people want to come here. It’s slower, cleaner, calmer.
There are still spots in town where you get a glimpse of what was once great views of the valley. Diaries speak of taking walks in the evening up the road by my house to take in the sunset. There are photographs of these vistas.
The cool brooks and pools were always a welcome spot on a hot day and people took advantage of not just the big pond but those little ponds scattered about town as well.
There was a big difference between the people in town working everyday of the year and the summer people arriving in June to wile away the summer months. I always fancy myself as a visitor sitting in the gardens, picking fruit as it came in. Reading a book, playing croquet or lawn tennis, eating a meal that someone else has grown and prepared.
These are the photographs we see at the museum. The pictures of people relaxed and enjoying their days here. There are very few taken in the winter and fewer still of the day to day life in the very early 20th century here. Photographs, especially of a candid nature, were more of a luxury. We are fortunate to have the collection we do at the historical society. It gives a small glimpse into what we all know to be a most wonderful time of the year even if we don’t get to ride a train to get here.
As we were playing our game of extreme croquet yesterday my sister and I were remembering playing the game as children – on the north lawn. I recalled having these photographs of the Wrights playing croquet in the late 1800’s on that same lawn. They brought their kitchen chairs outdoors to sit on.
In looking at the dress of the day I am just hoping that it wasn’t 95 degrees in the shade.
I’ve just spent the better part of this morning down a rabbit hole of genealogy which I have to admit happens quite often. It all started out with a thought about sugaring. I figured I’d do a little research on what sugaring was like on Fort Pelham Farm in the mid to late 1800’s. I will still do that but that thought led me on a little adventure.
This photograph was taken in the late 1890’s to early 1900’s. I decided to try and figure out who the people in the photo were as best I could. I have a number of other photographs with the names of people on them so I figured I’d just have to do some comparisons and maybe I could have an idea of who each person was.
The man farthest to the left is most likely Henry Wright, the next older gentlemen is Edward Wright. The woman next holding the bucket is Charlotte Mills. I think the man kneeling down is Lucius Wright but I could be wrong on that one. The last one I know is Daisy who is second from the right.
In dating old photographs one of the clues is in the clothing they were wearing. Daisy’s jacket is really of early 1890’s vintage. The rest of their clothes could be anywhere from 1890 to 1910 so we can probably assume that residents of Rowe were not on the cutting edge of fashion. I figured I’d look at the marriage date for Henry and Daisy Wright since they are together on the farm during sugar season. January 1, 1903 they were married. Then it happened. I opened the 1900 census for Daisy Negus and find her living with her aunt and uncle as a servant. Hmmm, now how are J. Frank and Mary E. Brown related to her. I search their family trees to find that they lived in the house next door to Fort Pelham Farm and Mary was Daisy’s mother’s sister. In addition to finding out they were neighbors I read on to find out that J. Frank and Mary were killed in a railroad accident in Zoar on December 21, 1903. Wow.
None of this really had anything to do with my quest to identify people in the photograph but these little searches sometimes do enlighten you about circumstances that you may never have known about. Daisy was Wright’s neighbor for a number of years as she was listed as a servant for her aunt and uncle who rented out rooms next door in the census. She was born in Readsboro, VT so I often wondered how they came to know one another. Mystery solved. That left a lingering question for me – how did they all feel on that tragic day in December 1903? It’s something I can only imagine.